ScientiFiction: Blake et Mortimer au musée des Arts et Métiers

It’s an event: Blake and Mortimer enter the museum! In 2003, at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, the heroes of Edgar P. Jacobs were given a retrospective. With “Scientifiction”, it is not simply a question of showing original plates. The Musée des Arts et Métiers confronts Jacobs’ work with science, the latter constituting a major source of inspiration for the former, from mad scientists to time travel and robotics. An exhibition which takes the form of an unprecedented dialogue between Jacobs’ scientific imagination and a selection of objects from the museum’s reserves. Thierry Bellefroid and Éric Dubois, the two curators and artistic directors, chose an original angle: that of the four elements – air, water, fire and earth – which permeate the adventures of Blake and Mortimer and to which the two heroes often face. They highlight the correspondences between the major scientific themes and their often-spectacular staging by Jacobs. The exhibition compares nearly seventy objects and some one hundred and twenty originals (pencils, inked plates, models, etc.), most of which have never been presented to the public. It is the subject of a catalog illustrated with abundant iconography and which brings together several renowned contributors. It includes an interview with François Schuiten, designer of “The Last Pharaoh”, the adventure of Blake and Mortimer published in May 2019, as well as a text by Daniel Couvreur, devoted to the different models created by Jacobs.

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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc.), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index. This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

I can’t say I understand the purpose of putting an exhibit together of Jacobs art and weird science devices, but I don’t have to. I ordered this book sight unseen from Amazon Canada after reading a snippet about it, and it showed up about eight months later. There seems to be a wealth of books featuring Jacobs’ original art available, but so far, I’ve only found a few books in print, along with the recent Le Rayon “U” and Les 3 Formules Du Professeur Satō. While this volume contains some art seen in those other volumes, it’s a wealth of original art for fans of the artist and this medium.

Accompanying these many pages of art are essays and interviews getting into the nitty gritty. This is a French volume so I did a lot of Google translate on my phone to read through, and probably missed a lot of the subtle nuances. But again, I was here for the art. Each piece displayed notes the title, book, and page, along with other relevant information.

The scans are excellent, with no issues. The art ranges greatly, from rough sketches through breakdowns, colour tests and complete pages. Pencils, graphite and coloured, are throughout. Blacks on the completed pages don’t show any gradients. Correction fluid is minimal, as are production notes for inked pages. There is a lot to take in regarding process when viewing the roughs, and we’re provided with a series of cover ideas for L’Affaire Du Collier.

The design is engaging and accessible, with another volume by Ghielmetti. The art takes center stage, and is arranged with the text, photos, and notes, to allow each to work in the space without feeling cramped or overwhelming. Enlargements are well done, presenting the art at its best.

The production is also excellent, with a sewn binding of a heavy matte paperstock. The book has a substantial feel to it.

I sat on this review for several months, never quite sure what to say about this eclectic collection. There is a wealth of information here and I barely scratched the surface of the included text.